Born in Tennessee and raised in Paris and is now shuffling time between Los Angeles and New York, photographer Erica Simone possesses a creative swagger that is brought on by her rich travel experiences and immersion with different cultures around the world. She has journeyed far and wide, with a camera in hand, and photographed many interesting subjects that constantly fuels her wanderlust. Resource Travel sat down with Erica to discuss her experiences of documenting daily life in Nepal, which is known for its historical and rich cultural landscape.
Simone told us about how her first trip to Nepal was booked on a whim, with no real plan in place.
I had always wanted to go to Nepal. I dreamed of trekking through the Himalayas and Kathmandu was of those mysterious cities you hear about, but never think you would actually visit someday. When flipping through my big book of travel, I landed on the Nepal page, and had an overwhelming feeling of “I must go there” come over me.
We all know that one main appeal of traveling is the opportunity to unearth a new collection of knowledge and experiences and Simone’s first trip to Nepal is no different as it supplied her with a variety of new discoveries every day.
Every day was a new fascinating experience in Nepal. Stumbling upon wild marijuana fields in the Himalayas. Witnessing a live cremation ceremony. Being welcomed at a junior high school for Buddhist monks. Having the fear of my life in a tiny airplane flying through the mountains. Following a monk to a hidden orphanage or being completely sandwiched and getting lost on a local bus. Each day was a thrill.
Nepal is overall really beautiful and its landscapes are so diverse. It’s a true old-world-meets-new-world sort of place, where you can distinctly see where ancient tradition and architecture are juxtaposed with the new and the modern. The rural landscapes are extraordinary and there are stunning little ancient villages built in between mountains and on rivers that will blow you away. The people are also very kind and calm. Kathmandu is a very intense city with extremely dangerous traffic patterns and horrible pollution, but it has such fascinating energy and is adorned with gorgeous monuments and temples. Nepal has a similar feel to certain countries in South-East Asia, like Laos or Cambodia, but is yet so distinct—there is a magical richness about it that I haven’t felt in other places.
Simone also told Resource Travel about some of her favorite locations in Nepal.
My favorite place there was a hill town called Tansen Palpa. It was a beautifully colorful village with lots of lovely locals and hardly any tourists. One morning, I woke up at sunrise to photograph people at the start of their day. It is one of my most vivid memories from Nepal—the villagers were so much fun to photograph, a couple people even invited me into their homes for tea. The Annapurna trail into the Himalayas was also an unforgettable journey. The tiny congregations of homes in the mountains are so spectacular. Desolate and modest, the small shacks back-dropped by the titanous Himalayas is a spectacular site. In particular, the village Marpha, known for its apple farming, was one of the most incredible places I’ve ever seen. Built inside a tight valley across from lush green fields, ancient homes made of clay closely neighbor each other among a maze of cobblestone streets reigned by a serene stupa/temple high above the village.
© Erica Simone
As a solo traveler and a photographer, Simone told us about the lessons she learned from her experiences in Nepal.
When traveling alone in exotic countries, there are always lessons to be learned. In my time in Nepal, approaching strangers and making them feel comfortable with me as a photographer became easier. I also learned how to be more patient and to wait for things to happen, rather than to just wander and capture moments on the fly. Tolerance was also a big lesson, as there were a couple situations that were not so jovial, namely having been woken up at 3am in a shabby hotel room by myself by giant cockroaches in my bed… Yes, that happened. It’s most important when facing cultures and situations that are so foreign to just appreciate them as great experiences: to not judge, fear or feel hate, but to laugh at, accept and enjoy the quirks that make up the world we are not used to. There are so many things we can learn from others who are different than us, and that’s part of why I love to travel so much—because it greatly expands and enriches my perspective.
There were times when the women would act shy or feel insecure about the way they looked as I photographed them and I wanted badly to convey how beautiful they were. There’s something upsetting about a woman who doesn’t realize her worth and I did feel a cultural sense of insecurity from a lot of the women there. However, overall, it was more interesting to learn from the people of Nepal than to convey any of my own messages. In my travels, I become much more of an observer than a teacher.
Because travel and photography has clearly been etched within Simone’s inventive process, we asked Erica where she plans of heading next;
I’m hoping to make it to Burma/Myanmar. That’s been a longtime travel dream of mine… I’m hoping to spend a month there sometime next year!
Simone’s talent of being able to convey the daily environment that surround the people of Nepal into a compelling visual story has us excited to follow along with her as she embarks on her next journey.